FARMINGTON — Home prices and sales in San Juan County and across New Mexico rose again in August, suggesting the real state market continues to steadily improve.

Homebuyers snapped up 66 residences in August, up from 63 a year ago in San Juan County. The median price rose 7 percent to $181,750 compared with a year earlier, according to data from the San Juan County Board of Realtors.

The up tick is due to first-time homebuyers, some homeowners moving up to larger residences and speculation that the oil and gas industry will improve, said Lela Holmes, owner-broker of San Juan Realty in Farmington.

Holmes pointed to a client who owns a two-bedroom, two-bath home and is looking for a larger residence.

"You have quite a few people moving up," she said. "We're also getting people moving here."

Some buyers are banking on more activity from oil and gas firms, Holmes said. A few drillers, most prominently Encana Corp. and Bill Barrett Corp., are exploring for oil in the south San Juan Basin.

"A lot of people are excited about this possibility of horizontal drilling," Holmes said.

Properties are moving faster. San Juan County homes in August spent on average only 88 days on the market, down from 121 in August 2011. That was a 27 percent drop.

Homes priced at less than $200,000 are moving particularly quickly, Holmes said. New listings are growing as well, with 129 market entrants in August.

Statewide, 1,440 homes were sold in August, a 13 percent gain from 1,273 a year ago.


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The median price rose 3.5 percent to $169,773. The median price is the midpoint of all homes sold. The data includes only homes sold by Realtors, and does not include homes sold by their owners.

Real estate groups are pushing for more relaxed lending standards, saying tight mortgage markets are dampening the recovery.

"We need to return to the sound underwriting standards that existed before the abnormalities of the housing boom and bust cycle, and thoroughly re-examine current and impending regulatory rules that may cause excessively tight standards," Realtors Association of New Mexico President Debbie Rogers said in a written statement.

Locally, some prospective buyers are taking second jobs or starting their own businesses to make more money to qualify, Holmes said.

Better lending conditions would benefit the economy, National Realtors Association chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a prepared statement.

"Sensible lending standards would permit 500,000 to 700,000 additional home sales in the coming year," he said. "The economic activity created through these additional home sales would add 250,000 to 350,000 jobs in related trades and services almost immediately, and without a cost impact."

Nationally, all 20 cities tracked by the widely watched S&P/Case-Shiller Home Prices Index gained from May to June, the most recent period available. Prices were up 0.4 percent in Denver, 1.5 percent in Phoenix, 1.1 percent in Las Vegas and 1 percent in Los Angeles, according to seasonally adjusted figures. The 20-city composite rose 0.9 percent.